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Archetype with character

14 of March '23
Technical data
Name: Broken House
Location: Poland, Poznań
Project: Ultra Architects sp. z o.o.
Authors: Marcin Kościuch, Tomasz Osięgłowski
Collaboration: Jacek Kolasinski, Anna Winna, Roderyk Milik, Łukasz Piszczałka, Mateusz Jóźwiak


  • design
  • implementation


Usable area:

345 m²

Interview fromA&B issue11|2022

Geometry and texture are two characteristic elements of the Broken House in Poznań by {tag:pracownie} - an office known for its modern thinking about traditional materials such as concrete and wood. The project was nominated in the single-family house category in the competition for the Architectural Award of the Wielkopolska Region. In an interview with Marcin Kościuch and Tomasz Osięgłowski, we ask, among other things, about the investors' impressions of the first months of using the house.

stonowana bryła domu jest zdynamizowana poprzez otwory okienne kolejnych kondygnacji (łącznie trzech)

The subdued body of the house is dynamized by the window openings of the subsequent floors (three in total)

Photo: Dawid Majewski © Ultra Architects

The building owes its unusual shape to the trapezoid-shaped plot. The lay of the land caused that behind the original plan (in the place of the ridge the solid was slightly "broken"), other traditional elements of the house also gained a new, refreshed form. The architects designed a block with a classic shape, with a roof with two slopes, with the eastern elevation based on the building line indicated by the local plan. The entrance area, garage, children's rooms and a small independent apartment are located on the middle floor. The living area with a kitchen and conservatory - on the lowest, and the owners' sleeping area with a study - on the highest. The bonding element between all floors is a spatially designed staircase. The facade and roofs of the house and the fence are finished with raw larch slats. On the other hand, in the interior the architects left the concrete unplastered.

rzut środkowej kondygnacji

middle floor plan

© Ultra Architects

Ania Diduch: How does "bold" design pay off in the process of creating a single-family home? Does "courage" translate into "comfort"?

Marcin Kościuch: If you look at this house, there is nothing bold about it. But neither are our other houses. Above all, we always care about matching the design to the investor's needs and, of course, to the place where it is to stand.

Ania: In view of this, does its beauty and uniqueness come from its function and the need to "break" so that the body adapts to the shape of the plot? For me, it's much more than that, because you have managed to develop a universal form that will not grow old. What kind of thinking about aesthetics is behind such an effect?

Marcin: In any building, all components are important. Form never outweighs function, or vice versa. There are many things that tell us whether a building is good: how well it has met the investor's expectations, how well it has matched its function to the investor's needs, but also how it is perceived in its surroundings, how it blends with them and how it reacts to them. Material also plays a big role in beauty. The wood we used for the facade is a pleasant material, even if it changes its color and goes from beige to gray. We used wood because two houses away stands a nice house designed by Studio de.materia, which also has a wooden facade, and we didn't want to forcefully introduce something new. And the form itself is simply a shape that is popular virtually all over the world, gently modified by local conditions. But of course we refined its exact shape and the relationship of the windows and the space inside. It's never the case that everything comes out just like that.

schemat koncepcyjny

conceptual diagram

© Ultra Architects

Ania: Who are the investors of the Broken House and what was the journey from the idea to the final version?

Marcin: They are the owners of an advertising agency with two sons. People with great sensitivity and awareness, on the one hand they knew what they wanted, and on the other hand they were very open to all our suggestions.

Tomasz Osięgłowski: They came to us to have us design their company's headquarters for them on this plot of land, and there was even a concept for such a building, although done by us a little unconvincingly.

Marcin: They liked those preliminary sketches of the building for the agency so much that when they changed their minds, however, and decided that this is where their house would stand, they wanted us to leave the concept of the block that was created for their company, and only modify the functions so that it would become a house. And they were very surprised when, at the first meeting about the design of the house already, we showed them a completely new thing.

Thomas:Every function needs a different layout, and that's why we said we needed to start from scratch. This new design was more responsive to the site, function and building conditions. We drew a simple block with a gabled roof, according to the WZ we put it on the line of the obligatory development, and since the plot is a trapezoid, unfortunately the house entered our neighbor's plot. That's why in the next move we broke it so that the west wall looks at our garden.

Marcin: That's why it got the working name Broken House, which stayed with it until the end.


cross section

© Ultra Architects

Ania: Please tell us more about the staircase, which also serves as a ventilation chimney.

Tomasz:The plot on which the house stands is very challenging. First of all, it's a sloping terrain, the difference between the street and the garden is about 2 meters, and secondly, the ground was not the best, because it must be added that the plot from the west meets the nature reserve, which is largely a wetland. Hence the concrete walls visible in the interiors. Reinforced concrete as a structure in such cases is the best solution.

Marcin: And these very conditions led us to design a building that has three floors.
We enter at street level, and from this level the garage, technical rooms and two children's private rooms are also accessible. There is also a small apartment here, which has a separate entrance from the outside and a separate small terrace. The investors' son, who is already studying, lives in it, and through this separate entrance is completely independent. The floor below is the living area, with a kitchen, dining room, living room and conservatory. And on the top floor is the parents' bedroom with a bathroom and a study. Both of these rooms have their own large terraces sunk into the roof.

Thomas:And it is all these levels that are connected by a staircase that starts at the conservatory, then turns into a ramp and again into a staircase leading to the top floor. We specially placed it on the south side and equipped it with several sizable windows, so that in winter it receives the sun and warms the house, but also distributes the heated air from the conservatory. In summer, the windows can be covered, and the cage serves as a ventilation chimney and naturally ventilates the house.

wszystkie poziomy domu łączy klatka schodowa, która zaczyna się przy ogrodzie zimowym, później zmienia się w pochylnię i znów w schody

All levels of the house are connected by a staircase, which starts at the conservatory, later turns into a ramp and again into a staircase - not without reason it is located on the south side of the building and has several windows to receive the sun in winter and heat the house

Photo: Przemyslaw Turlej © Ultra Architects

Ania: Have you already received feedback from the residents after the first period in the house? What are the lessons learned from it for you and for them? Should something have been done differently?

Marcin: We've been in the house often, because this building time made us friends with Monika and Tom - the investors. They even coded our fingerprints in the front door reader. Tom, our investor, always jokes that he dreamed of two sitting lions in front of the entrance, there are none, so he is disappointed... Although I always explain that Benek - their fifth family member, a big tosa inu dog, who loves to lie in front of the front door - is doing the job of a lion at their house.

Thomas:We would probably improve something ourselves, for now the feedback is positive, the winter garden, which at first was considered something unnecessary, and today is the heart of the house, has become a hit.

ogród zimowy jest nieoficjalnym sercem domu

The winter garden is the unofficial heart of the house

Photo: Dawid Majewski © Ultra Architects

Ania: Because of the pandemic, has there been a change in how builders approach the subject of private homes? Are they now planned with more precision or do you feel more pressure as architects because "habitat" has become an important topic in the "investment portfolio" of families?

Marcin: I've argued all along that the pandemic won't have that much of an impact on design, that we'll get over it quickly, and I found it a bit amusing to hear those interviews with designers who spun all sorts of fantastic stories about post-pandemic buildings. What is having and will have an impact on design is what is happening now across our eastern border, the war caused by Russia. That's what's going to affect design: first the humanitarian crisis, second the energy crisis, and third the fear of what might happen in the future.

Thomas:Actually every house now being designed will be made to be self-sustainable. There will be shelters, by the way, we are already designing a large building whose garage we will consult with military specialists so that it can be an air raid shelter.

architektura wnętrz, także autorstwa Ultra Architects, jest integralną częścią całego projektu;

Interior architecture, also by Ultra Architects, is an integral part of the whole project; - in this way, the concrete structure has become an element of decorum

Photo: Dawid Majewski © Ultra Architects

Ania: Looking more broadly and generally also beyond the group of investors you work with: how is the awareness of people who decide to build a single-family house changing? Is this a trend in housing thinking, or a luxury for the few?

Marcin: I think that building houses will be with us for a long time to come, if only because not everyone wants to live in herds. A lot of people don't like turmoil and prefer to depend on themselves.

Thomas:But the size of houses being ordered is changing, for various reasons. They are getting smaller, more thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of the family now, but also in the future.

Marcin: They are simply getting smaller. And fewer meters means less financial and energy expense. And this is a good direction.

Ania: Thank you for the interview.


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